DrJack sez:
May 10, 2012:  RAP replaces RUC:  NCEP has replaced the RUC model with the RAP model.  I am working on making the appropriate BLIPMAP alterations, the primary focus being on needed operational changes - references to RUC in webpages which do not actually affect forecasts will likely remain for awhile.  Operational forecast problems should be reported on the BLIPMAP forum
October 11, 2011:  Continuing BLIPMAPs:  I currently plan to fund and administer BLIPMAPs indefinitely, with all BLIPMAPs remaining freely available to any registered user, but will do little, if any, further development.  To reduce costs to a sustainable level, I am planning to replace my dedicated server with a shared server and do the processing on my personal computer.  Like much else, that switchover has been pending for some time - when it eventually does occur I will alert users via these news items. . Hopefully it will go so smoothly that users will not notice any difference. 
April 1, 2010:  Free BLIPMAPs:  As of today, all BLIPMAPs will be freely available to any registered user.  I currently plan to fund and administer BLIPMAPs through at least September of 2011.  But I will do little, if any, further development.  For quite some time I have been intending to send a situation report to subscribed users, but I find that difficult to write so it has been indefinitely delayed (like much else in my life these days).  I will be changing text on the website which refers to "subscription" use, but that will take awhile. 
Oct 21:  BLIPMAP future:  Options which continue BLIPMAPs without requiring my personal time may emerge - for example, releasing my source code for others to run is a definite possibility.  I will take a six months respite, then see what possibilities have emerged.  While the planned scenario would allow me to terminate BLIPMAPs in October 2010, I would want to continue them (in "free" mode) until such time as alternate runs are available.  But the bottom line is that I must cease my active involvement with BLIPMAPs:  for the past three years, any sitting beyond 2 hours per day has been painful and whereas I was willing to accept some pain for this "labor of love" (hoping the condition was ephemeral, with some diagnosis/solution eventually being found!), I am no longer willing to program in pain and cannot spend the computer-sitting time necessary to maintain the site. 
Oct 17:  Subscription changes:  As of the end of last month, "expiring" subscriptions are no longer being terminated.  Also, any new subscriptions are at only half the previous rate and are valid only for 6 months.  After March, BLIPMAPs will be "free", with the proviso that no further development will occur.  Thus I will have made no further fiduciary commitments to users beyond October 2010 and could terminate BLIPMAP forecasts at that time (see my previous" news" item for an explanation). 
Oct 17:  Schleicher woes and site termination:  BLIPMAP users have likely noticed that there has been little updating or improving of the website or forecasts for over a year.  Some of you are also aware that 16 months ago I had an (unexplained) in-flight fire in the engine bay of my Schleicher ASH-26e.  The two events are related.  Schleicher has now had my engine for over one year, without any repair - Schliecher says they cannot get parts from the engine manufacturer.  I am mentioning this here as a "public service announcement" for those considering purchasing an ASH-26e, or any plane with that engine, but also because this affects BLIPMAPs.  I have not flown since that time and find I have lost my love of soaring - for me, "soaring" now only means problems and hassles, so I have turned to more enjoyable recreational activities.  This website has been a "labor of love" but that love has died and I have no motivation for contributing any further time to the soaring community - for me this website is just another soaring-related "problem".  I will address this issue in future posts, but the bottom line is probable termination of this website a year from now. 
Oct 1:  "Super" UniViewer now default:  I have now made the "super" univiewer, which has been under testing for several months, the default univiewer.  Note that it is capable of "remembering" a multiple-BLIPMAP forecast sequence to be automatically displayed at each startup, but on first use that is non-existent so loading of a new BLIPMAP will be required.  For further info see the "Super" UniViewer revision posting below.  If you experience problems, please post its details to the BLIPMAP forum .  The new features can be ignored/circumvented if desired, but FWIW the old UniViewer is still available here
Sep 17:  Altered cloud composite BLIPMAPs:  Following a suggestion on the forum, I have altered the cloud composite (Cu and OD) BLIPMAPs to add stippling indicating the cloud formation uncertainty.  The "theoretical" criterion is that the cloud potential be greater than 0 to form a cloud, but in reality there is error in the prediction - accordingly stippling now indicates where the cloud formation potential lies between -500 and +500.  Production of the new cloud composite BLIPMAPs will begin with tonight's run. 
Sep 9:  "Super" UniViewer revision:  Some revisions have been made to the test version of the super UniViewer.  I hope to replace the present UniViewer with this "super" version in the near future.  The "super" UniViewer can:  (1) display a background topography/geography,   (2) zoom and pan the image  (3) "remember" a preferred image size, background, etc. (4) "remember" a multiple-BLIPMAP forecast sequence to be automatically displayed at the next startup,   It also can display a new "USA" region, allowing centering of forecasts over any location in the USA, though use of that region will be somewhat slower than the regional regions and is not suggested if the smaller regions meet your needs.  Please note that although zooming is allowed, the resolution provided in the images is essentially that of the model grid points - presenting forecasts with a resolution much finer than that provided by "equations of motion" model results is a "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow" that I will not be chasing.  For more info on the added functions see the "UniViewer Notes" link on the univiewer page.  Any problems/comments should be made on the forum
June 20:  Seeking Javascript programmer:  I'm seeking a programmer with javascript expertese to help implement BLIPMAPs in an overlay display.  This is NOT a "volunteer for free" task - I expect to pay the going rate for these services and am first soliciting here since I would prefer to recycle funds into the soaring community.  Knowldege of geoimaging would be a plus but not necessary.  Your work would be used both for my USA NAM/RUC BLIPMAPs and RASP BLIPMAPs.  If interested, please send your details to me directly at
June 19:  USA grid being created:  FYI I am working on creating a "USA" grid to provide seamless coverage over the USA, with a BLIPMAP being displayed as an overlay over a geographic/topographic map.  More information is given in a forum posting
June 9:  Maps of actual and model terrain:  Per user request, I have added plots of both actual and model topography to the viewers and to the "index" webpages.  The actual topography map might be useful for identifying a location, as is the geographic map, but I caution users against trying to make their locating too precise as (1) inherent spatial fluctuations in both the atmosphere and the model will prevent any exact 1:1 match between reality and the forecast, and (2) model forecasts are based upon model topography (for which I have also added a map using the same coloring as for the actual topography, to facilitate comparison).  What one should be doing is looking at the forecast pattern in an area of interest to gain insight into expected conditions in that area. 
June 1:  Access problems on Sunday:  There were many user access problems yesterday, which were traced to a user database corruption problem.  I've now replaced that database and access is back to normal.
Dec 1:  Updated the monthly BLIPMAP usage statistics
Aug 27:  Geographic maps update:  After a sudden revelation, and two days of work, I am now producing composite blipmaps which are congruent with the non-composite blipmaps!  As a consequence, the SkewT and mini-Blipspot PopUps now work for the composite blipmaps. 
Aug 25:  Geographic maps now availables:  "Geographic maps" are now available on the forecast index webpages, the regional viewers, and the univiewer.  For the viewers, one can "switch" or "swap" back and forth between a forecast and the geographic map to better orient oneself.
Jun 12:  RUC run changes:  The RUC runs started failing today.  I traced the problem to a re-arrangement of the NCEP RUC output file parameters and have made the necessary changes, so RUC BLIPMAPs are again being produced.  However, I also found that RUC topography heights have been slightly altered - the new values are being used in the calculations but the plotted BLIPMAP terrain will continue to be the old terrain until I can make the necessary changes (though I suspect the differences will be so small as to not be noticeable). 
Aug 25:  Trigger temperature added to RUC miniBLIPSPOT:   As a result of a Forum thread question I have added estimates of thermal "trigger" times and temperatures to the RUC miniBLIPSPOT popups, obtained by clicking on a map location in the javascript viewers.  Note that this depends upon the choice of a "thermal top" parameter and uses linear interpolation over a 3 hour span, so the results are only roughly approximate.
July 9:  Firefox 2 warning:   Those who use the Firefox browser have likely gotten a popup indicating that a new Version 2 is now available and requesting permission to "upgrade" their current version.   I suggest that not be done as there has been occurrences of Version 2 not properly storing/reading cookies, both at my site and others, whereupon deletion of the existing cookie and download of a new one is required to again get things working.  Users already using Version 2 should be on the lookout for cookie corruption problems. 
Apr 11:  Wrong day RUC fixed:  Because of an error introduced when NCEP switched the RUC datafile format, around March 19, the RUC BLIPMAPs have had a 50-50 chance of being for the wrong day - so at times RUC could have been wildly off.  That has been fixed and a test of the data file internal date has been added to prevent such a problems in the future.  Details can be found on DrJack Forum,
Apr 6:  Archives unavailable:  To allow "composite" plotting of archived data I must alter the method used to archive datafiles, so archived plots will be unavailable until further notice.
Mar 18:  RUC BL winds corrected:  I thought of a quick kludge which would fix the RUC wind calculations, so they should now be correct.. 
Mar 17:  RUC BL winds erroneous:  The RUC wind calculations are currently in error and should be disregarded until further notice.  For more information see my Forum posting
Feb 22:  NAM access restored:  NAM access has been restored, processing is underway for all times. 
Feb 22:  NAM access down again:  NAM access has been interrupted again. I am trying to find out what is going on. 
Feb 2:  NAM access restored:  NAM access was restored today.  New forecasts are currently being computed but it will take awhile to get forecasts for all days completed. 
Jan 23:  NAM access down:  Due to a changeover in the access server, NAM files are not available at the present time so NAM BLIPMAPs will be unavailable for an unknown period. 
Jan 1, 2007:  Erroneous subscription expiry emails:  With the start of the new year, my automatic subscription expiration program incorrectly sent out "expiration" emails to everybody on the DrJack subscription list.  I sent out a correction notice last night to all subscribers, hoping to avoid unnecessary consternation and unnecessary emails sent to me, but in in case you missed that notice be advised that your subscription status is unchanged.  It's a mess I hope to sort out in detail today. 
Oct 7:  San Francisco HG/PG talk:  Slides from a talk on future BLIPMAP forecasts (that I presented to Bay Area HG/PG Summit and USHPA board members) can be viewed here.
Sept 3:  NAM vs RUC comparisons:  There have been significant changes to both the NAM (ETA) and RUC models over the past month, so I have resumed monthly plotting of the difference between NAM and RUC parameter predictions.  Results for last month can be viewed at the NAM-RUC Monthly Difference Viewer.  You can see if these biases agree with your personal experience.  I was particularly amazed by the large difference in sfc. dew point temperature predictions between the two models for Northern California. 
Sept 3:  Along-Track Plots:  I've added plots of the along-track variation of Thermal Climb Rate, Tail Wind, Thermalling Percentage, and Optimal Ground Speed to the "integrated track predictions" described in the previous news item. 
Aug 15:  Integrated track predictions:  I've created a program to provide an "integrated flight average" of forecast meteorological conditions over a specified flight track.  In addtion to spatial averages over the track, it computes an "optimal flight" speed and time using "speed to fly" theory, allowing evaluation of "flight averaged" forecast thermals and wind over a for a user-specified glider type.  The program can be accessed by subscribed users in two ways:  (1) via the regional viewers, which use the mouse to interactively set track turnpoints, and (2) via a browser bookmark which utiilzes user-stored turnpoints and glider data.  There are many simplifications and caveats inherent in this method - further information is provided in the Track Average Soaring Forecasts webpage.  This is still experimental, so bugs can be expected and should be reported to the Forum. 
Aug 2:  Improved Forecast Availability Information:  For those waiting for the next forecast update and wanting to know when that should appear, I've improved the Forecast Availability webpages by adding tables giving approximate update times and the most current update times.  Links to that webpage are on many forecast and viewer webpages for easy access.  The page updates automatically every 5 minutes so you can just leave it on your browser and check periodically to determine the latest status - when a new forecast appears its update time will change color to indicate it's now the latest update.  I had not been looking too closely at availability times and was a bit surprised to find that for the same forecast period RUC forecasts are available up to 1 hour before NAM (old ETA) forecasts - I had not realized the difference that large.  So whatever other differences there are, RUC forecasts are more timely. 
July 17:  Side-by-side forecast comparisons:  I encourage users to consider and compare both RUC and NAM forecasts, since that provides an indication of forecast reliability.  To aid that, I have created a "2 Viewer" which simultaneously displays two forecasts side-by-side.  It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the other viewers, but it's very useful for evaluating RUC vs NAM differences since a single click displays forecasts from both models for a selected day, time, and parameter.  The 2Viewer can be found at the BLIPMAP forecast comparison viewer webpage.  Later: I've been told that this viewer does not work with some Microsoft browsers, due to their non-standard javascript functionality.
July 11:  RUC changes implemented by NCEP:  Today NCEP implemented RUC model changes touted as being the "most important set of changes to the RUC since June 2005".  I looked over the change list and saw nothing suggesting an obvious dramatic effect on soaring forecasts.  They do say that relative humidity forecasts will be improved, and those who read the Forum are aware that the RUC forecasts generally seem drier than reality, but the specifics I saw applied only to coastal regions.  So at this point I expect biases to remain similar to the previous ones, but users should be on the lookout for possible bias changes, particularly in humidity/cloud forecasts. 
July 1:  Cloud composite plots improved:  I've found that the Cu and OD Cloud composite plots (e.g. "Cumulus Cloudbase for Cu Potential > 0") were often missing small regions where the potential was in fact greater than zero.  This resulted from an inherent deficiency in the plotting sofware, so I've changed to a new "raster-style" plot for those parameters to ensure that all locations with a positive potential will be displayed.  Thanks to David Anisman for finding and reporting this problem in the forum.
June 27:  BLIPMAP error correction:  The computation of maximum BL relative humidity was found to be incorrect for both NAM and RUC BLIPMAPs (though not grievously so).  That should be fixed in this evening's run. 
June 25:  NAM changes:  I've now converted webpages and directories from "ETA" to "NAM".  For those using bookmarks or cookieless access methods which include an "ETA", I have tried to keep everything working for you but cannot guarantee that - so if you encounter a problem, first try replacing the "ETA" in the URL you are using with "NAM" as that might fix it (but in any case it would be a good idea to replace such bookmarks).  I also have viewer popups and archives working.  The terrain overlay on NAM BLIPMAPs now represents the new NAM topography, which differs slightly from ETA topography.  I've reached the point where you can notify me via the Forum if something is not working, or if you find a place where ETA has not been replaced by NAM, and I will fix it. 
June 22:  Behold the NAM:  I now have NAM forecasts available on "index" and viewer webpages.  Currently you will see "ETA" webpages and directories which actually provide "NAM" results (note the BLIPMAP images have "NAM" in the title).  I've now begun the massive chore of editing and renaming all my "ETA" webpages. 
June 20:  ETA->NAM changeover:  The ETA is dead - long live the NAM!  This morning NCEP operations retired the venerable ETA model and replaced it with a new "NAM" model ("North American Mesoscale") which uses "WRF-NMM" ("Weather Research and Forecasting - Non-hydrostatic Mesoscale Model") coding, as previewed in my Mar 21 news item.  There are critical changes which will break my ETA-processing routines, so no NAM forecasts will be available until I can make alterations, which I am working on full-time.  I will post an announcement here when I get the NAM forecasts minimally working.  Following that there will need to be additional, more extensive, website alterations. 
      Operationally NAM is identical to ETA in terms of forecast period, grid spacing, etc., but many underlying modeling assumptions are somewhat different - all of which NCEP feels are improvements over what was used by ETA.  I'm optimistic because I've always been skeptical of the unique vertical coordinate system ETA used, producing degraded vertical resolution over higher terrain as compared to other models and likely more horizontal filtering than desirable - and WRF-NMM does not have that deficiency.  So this change has the potential to bring forecast improvement, but only time will tell.  The effect of these changes can't be predicted a priori - I'd first assume NAM biases to be similar to those of ETA, but then be on the lookout for bias differences from those of ETA. 
      Name Clarification: if you have previously been using a weather product labeled "NAM" on the web you have been really been using ETA results, i.e. that "NAM" was only a NCEP name change.  To avoid confusion I had decided to delay that name change for my products, since I knew an actual model change was scheduled for later and thought it more straightforward to change the product name when the underlying model changed.  All post-June20 "NAM" results, both here and on the web, are produced by the newly implemented WRF-NMM model coding.  BTW I have seen NWS forecaster discussions which use "NAM", "WRF" and "NMM" - confusing since they all mean the same thing, current NAM model results. 
June 12:  DrJack #1 on Google:  For entertainment, today I did a Google search on "Dr Jack" and to my amusement found my website the #1 listing!?  Among those trailing were "Dr Jack" Kevorkian, who is certainly more infamous than I, and "Dr Jack" Van Impe, an widespread evangelist.  Years ago I had done the same search and found myself well behind them - makes one wonder how Google makes and changes its ratings, since I am sure many more people are interested in them than in my website.  Perhaps it is because my home webpage URL contains "drjack" - I certainly don't do anything to try to get a high Google rating.  Anyway, I offer this for your possible amusement also.  Still, if trying to locate my site using Google (or other search engine) I recommend searching on "blipmap" since that is more unique and much more likely to always be the #1 search result. 
June 10:  Improved forecast availability:  I have increased the priority of the more important forecast times.  The previous method, implemented when only RUC was being processed, had been resulting in delayed processing of ETA "Current Day" files by up to an hour when several download files were simultaneously available.  I've sophisticated the priority and made some efficiency improvements so such delays will now not occur, giving you a better chance of viewing a later forecast prior to heading out to the field.  There will also be a smaller improvement in RUC CurrentDay availability.  (Now CurrentDay forecasts are always processed first, when available, and 18Z,21Z forecasts are given priority within any given day.) 
May 26:  Run problems:  There were problems with this evening's runs which I think I have fixed so have re-started those runs.  Many "previous day" plots were lost, but they can still be viewed using the archive viewer. 
May 5:  Experimental2 parameter change:  The "Experimental2" parameter is now the BL average moisture, to aid in dry-line determination. 
Apr 21:  Cookieless access:   I removed some apparent fat from the cookieless access script, but while I tested the result there is always the chance that it wasn't really fat - so if you find your cookieless access has suddenly broken, let me know via the DrJack Forum.
Apr 1:  "Send Forgotten UserInfo" fixed:   Today I found that the "Send Forgotten UserInfo" feature has been broken since March 18.  If you had unsuccessfully tried to use it since then, it should now work for you. 
Mar 28:  New BLIPSPOTs again available:   After a hiatus of nearly 2 years, I've decided to again start producing new BLIPSPOTs for those who want them.  For information on requesting creation of a BLIPSPOT for your location, see the BLIPSPOT creation webpage.
Mar 21:  NAM replacing ETA:  Looking ahead, on June 13 NCEP will replace the ETA model forecasts with those from a new model, the NMM variant of the WRF model.  This should be a good thing because the new model will have better vertical resolution of the BL over higher terrain, which was always a weakness of ETA and why I had recommended use of RUC for regions with high surface elevations - but we shall have to await actual forecasts before a true judgment of the change can be made.  Some parameterizations, etc. will change and thus require re-evalutation of forecast accuracy.  Note: the naming is a bit confusing, since awhile ago NCEP changed what had been known as the "ETA model forecasts" to a generic name, the "North American Mesoscale (NAM) forecasts" so those who read NWS forecaster summaries can already find references to NAM forecasts there - after June 13 the "NAM" name will still be used, but the underlying forecast model will have changed.  For my forecast plots, at that time I will change the BLIPMAP appelations from "ETA" to "NAM" to reflect the change in forecast model. 
Mar 20:  Error of advance ETA forecasts:  I've occasionally wondered "how much does the ETA forecast one and two days in advance (current+1 and current+2 days) differ from what is actually predicted on the final (current) day", so finally did an analysis to answer that question.
Mar 19:  Potential Login Problems:  Back on Jan 3 I announced an alteration of the registration system such that the logon UserID, password, and Email address were now case-INsensitive, to make things easier for users.  Yesterday a user found a problem in what I had done, resulting in his (valid) password being rejected.  I think I have now fixed that problem but it took much re-coding (over 40 line changes), so potentially could introduce other problems.  While I've done my own testing and will be watching the log files for errors, please let me know if you encounter a strange login problem. 
Mar 10:  Easier Cell Phone Access:  Since I received a forum comment about difficult cell phone access, I have created some "mini" webpages to aid such access by minimizing the screen size needed, simply providing links with minimal text.  You can read more about this on the cell phone access webpage.
Mar 5:  Plotting Problem Fixed:  I believe I have finally fixed the occasional cloud composite plot failures reported back on Feb 25.
Jan 16:  Composite Plots:  I've added several "composite" plots which combine forecasts from two related parameters to simplify their evaluation.  They are: (1) B/S Ratio stippling over Thermal Updraft Velocity contours, to indicate where strong thermals may be broken by wind shear, (2) Wind Direction streamlines overlaying Wind Speed contours, and (3) Cu Cloudbase and OvercastDevelopment Cloudbase contours plotted only where such a cloudbase is theoretically expected.  The plotting package used is a new one so the image size differs and the composite images do not overlay with the non-composite images and cannot be used to obtain sounding profile or mini-blipspot popups in the javascript viewers.  Eventually I plan to switch all BLIPMAPs over to the new package, but that requires much more development work.
Jan 10:  RASP Soaring Forecast Program:  For some months now I've been providing high-resolution (1-12km) soaring forecasts for my local flying area.  These differ from ETA/RUC BLIPMAPs in that the prognostic time-stepping is done on a local computer rather than at NCEP and so allows higher resolution to be obtained.  But the processing is very computer intensive so I cannot provide such forecasts at many other locations.  Therefore I'm making the RASP program I use available to anyone seriously interested in undertaking the effort of providing better cross-country soaring weather predictions for their local region (and who has the necessary computer processing resources and expertise).  These forecasts are most useful where soaring conditions vary dramatically over short distances, as for complex terrain, and my experience is that they are more accurate than RUC/ETA BLIPMAPs in my local soaring area - but I would not expect them to be more accurate over relatively flat regions where the increased resolution will have little benefit (e.g. Kansas, much of Texas, etc).  Further information is available at the RASP wiki.  Examples can be viewed at the RASP webpage and an example of non-DrJack operational RASP forecasts are Ian Forbes' South African forecasts.
Jan 3, 2006:  Case-Insensitive Login:  In an effort to make everyone's life a little easier, I have altered the registration system to make the logon UserID, password, and Email address (which can be used instead of the UserID) case-INsensitive, so you don't have to remember which letters you have capitalized.  I've tested it, but if you have difficulty logging in that you did not have previously let me know and I will investigate. 
Dec 11:  BLIPMAP T-Shirt:  I'd created a T-shirt for myself with printed across it and when wearing it found others asking if they could get one!  The first one I gave away "off my back" but I can't continue to do that, so to allow individual selection of shirt style and size - and to avoid mailing/handling/payment hassles - I've opened up a "store" at the place I got my shirts done.  This is for amusement, not to make $, so I opted to markup the shirts by only $1.  (For some strange reason ordering via the store is actually significantly cheaper than when I've ordered for myself individually, even though they use the same company!?)  These are individually printed with a full-color representation (not limited color silk-screening).  I then got carried away and created some additional designs beyond my original - you can view the samples and if you wish order a BLIPMAP T-shirt for yourself.
Nov 29:  Thanks to Blairstown:  I enjoyed seeing the Blairstown (NJ) gliderport operations Saturday and thank those whom I visited for their hospitality.  This spring I will put the RASP forecasts on an operational schedule and look forward to hearing how Blairstown users (and others who fly the Governor's Cup South Course) evaluate them. 
Nov 15:  Easier Logon Access:  For those registered/subscribed users who keep losing your cookies (on the web, that is), I've now added a link to the Logon page at the top of the index and viewer webpages.  (Per an excellent forum suggestion from Jim Dobberfuhl.) 
Oct 23:  Parameter Changes:  To allow comparison of model moisture predictions against actual observational values, I have added the surface dew point temperature as a new BLIPMAP variable (it had already been supplied in BLIPSPOT reports).  Also, I have changed the "Experimental" parameter to be an estimate of the BL cloud cover percentage (so far I don't have much confidence in it, but we shall see).  The
Oct 18:  RUC terrain improvement:  The June 28 news item reported that I'd found that the RUC grid change from 20km to 13km had not produced any improvement in terrain resolution.  This surprised me and, even more of a surprise, when I asked the folks at FSL (now officially ESRL) about it they had not realized this!  So they have since worked on improving the RUC terrain to match the grid resolution reduction and today that improved topography was implemented in the NCEP production runs. In recognition of this, I've altered the RUC BLIPMAP terrain overlay to match the new topography - the improvement from the old 20km terrain is not dramatic but does exist, for example the White Mts in the CA/NV region now appear.  So terrain-induced phenomena should now be better predicted by RUC. 
Oct 15:  B/S now freely available:  I have made the "Buoyancy/Shear Ratio" parameter a "public" BLIPMAP forecast available to all registered users, non-subscribers as well as subscribers, since it indicates whether or not the fundamental "Thermal Updraft Velocity" is a useful number for soaring flights.  Eventually I hope to produce a "composite" BLIPMAP depicting both parameters in a single image. 
June 28:  RUC Bummers:  Today NCEP implemented their announced transition to a 13km RUC - but I now find that they are only providing model output files subsampled at 20km instead of at the full resolution (whereas previously they had always supplied the full resolution).  So my two weeks of full-time effort (as well as time prior to that) spent preparing and testing processing changes expected to be required by that transition, getting all my ducks lined up so downtime to BLIPMAP users would be minimal, now turns out to be unnecessary - and I am definitely bummed.  Right now I need to get away from all this S and will simply continue RUC BLIPMAP production as before.  Also, I will continue to use the previous terrain overlay even though it is not identical to the new topography because differences are minor since the expected terrain improvement was not realized - a second bummer!  There should be some accuracy improvements, but users will not see any obvious difference in the plots.  I might later consider increasing the domain size as previously announced, to allow more overlap between regions, but for now things will continue as before while I think things over. 
June 22:  Scheduled RUC model upgrade:  On June 28 NCEP will be upgrading the RUC model.  There are several improvements which should increase forecast accuracy, but unfortunately I must report that the improvement in terrain features expected from the increased grid resolution of 13km (from 20km) has not been achieved - I am pushing FSL to improve terrain resolution and expect that will occur.  Due to the resolution change all regional BLIPMAP grids must be re-created.  I had originally thought that BLIPMAP production would be down for a week, with ancillary features such as viewer pop-ups down for an additional 1-2 weeks.  But since then I have been working behind the scenes to upgrade the BLIPMAP code such that much that was hard-wired is now computed so regional areas can be more easily changed, and I now estimate that production will down for only a day and ancillary features down for an additional 1-2 days, assuming all goes as I have planned (and any future regional boundary alterations will now be much more do-able). 
June 22:  Cookies now valid for 2 years:  Newly obtained cookies will now be valid for 2 years instead of the previous 1 year.  This is to prevent possible cookie expiration problems, since a browser does not automatically tell the user when a cookie exists but has expired and tracking down that information is not easy.  I'd suggest getting a new cookie (after first deleting the old one) to avoid possible problems, using a registration page.
June 11:  Region borders changing:  I will be changing the regional borders for RUC BLIPMAPs at the end of the month, at the RUC switchover to 13km.  Based on responses received in the recent user survey, I decided to increase the regional size by 20%, to allow a 10% overlap to each side.  Please check the new regional coverage maps and let me know if you think some modification is warranted.  Changes can be made now, but after implementation it will be too late. 
May 26:  User Survey:  Summarized results from the Third annual User Survey are now available.  My thanks to all who participated. 
May 23:  Convergence line simulation:  For those interested in convergence lines, I have placed animation from a high-resolution (1.3km) model prediction of a convergence line developing along a mountain range sideslope on-line.  There is also some discussion about it on the DrJack Forum.
May 15:  RUC archives available:  A RUC archive viewer is now available for those who wish to look at RUC BLIPMAP forecasts after they have been "aged" from the "previous day" links available on the regular BLIPMAP forecast pages.  An added bonus is the ability to overlay flight traces by uploading an IGC file - however it does not work for all IGC files.  C'est la vie.  If you experience a problem you can report it to the DrJack Forum, but I do not expect to spend time debugging it unless the problem and solution are immediately apparent. 
Apr 1:  Annual April Fool's Day is in effect
Mar 27:  Thermal Height Variability Change:  I just discovered that the "Thermal Height Variability" parameter had been using a change of 4 degC not the intended 4 degF.  I've now corrected that so the variability heights will now be significantly smaller. 
Mar 13:  UniViewer Problems:  From the server logs I see that malformed URLs are being produced by the UniViewer for some users - but not for others.  At this time I have no solution other than to recommend use of the regional viewers instead of the UniViewer if this is a problem for you. 
Mar 8:  RUC preferred over ETA:  I now generally recommend using RUC forecasts to evaluate the soaring potential of the current day.  This is based on:  (1) NCEP's switch to new ETA data files which have degraded vertical resolution, (2) one researcher found that numerical techniques used by the ETA result in their effective horizontal resolution being more much coarser than their nominal 5km grid spacing and hence comparable to the RUC 20km spacing, and  (3) I've received more pilot reports citing cases where RUC forecasts have proved more accurate than ETA ones.  But (1) and (2) are theoretically-based preferences, i.e. not based upon model vs observation comparisions, and differences in the internal workings of the models can make ETA generally preferable to RUC for a specific location. 
Feb 22:  13 km RUC coming:  FYI a 13 km resolution RUC is expected to come on line at NCEP sometime this summer. Besides better horizontal resolution it includes additional assimilation of observational data. When that occurs I will modify the BLIPMAP program to use that data as quickly as I can.
Jan 29:  What is DrJack up to now?  Providing detailed BLIPMAPs for two local soaring sites where pilots fly in complex terrain not well resolved by the normal BLIPMAPs.  If interested, you can check out the Panoche regional predictions.  If this is successful, the same methodology can be used for other sites around the country (or world, for that matter).
Jan 27:  ETA forecasts UP again:  Well it took the day, but I now think I have ETA BLIPMAPs up again. 
Jan 26:  ETA forecasts DOWN again:  There is an occasional fatal error in the new ETA processing which crashes the program.  I am investigating.
Jan 26:  Modified ETA forecasts now UP:  I have now fixed all problems with the new ETA forecasts.  The projection used for the new ETA data files is the same as used for the RUC forecasts, so I have chosen to make the new ETA BLIPMAP domains essentially identical to those of the RUC BLIPMAPs to allow the different forecasts to more easily be compared.  NB:  the data used for the new ETA forecasts is less precise the the old data and thus forecasts accuracy has been degraded - so in general I now recommend using the RUC forecasts to evaluate the soaring potential of the current day. 
Jan 26:  ETA forecasts DOWN:  Back on Nov 4 I announced that NCEP planned to discontinue production of the ETA files used by BLIPMAP processing on Dec 14 - but for whatever reason the files continued to be produced beyond that date so ETA BLIPMAPs continued as usual.  But today the ordained shutoff has occurred and those files are no longer available.  I have switched to a new processing program I developed in the interim, which uses different data files, but at present the map overlays are not correct.  I am working on the problem. 
Jan 25:  WELCOME to the NEW website:  The changeover to the new server announced on Jan 17 has now been accomplished.  Since you are reading this, the DNS name propagation has reached your location because you are now at the NEW server.  All forecasts should be available, but you may need to get a new cookie (now sure about that, will have to see how it works out).  Give me a day to look for and solve any problems.  After that, if you find something broken and see nothing regarding it in a news item or on the Forum, please post a message to the DrJack Forum to alert me and to let others know that there is a problem which has already been reported.  As always, you can help me out by being by making your report specific and detailed enough to be useful. 
Jan 17:  Server switchover to come:  The BLIPMAP processing and website is in the process of being changed from one server to another, so this (old) site is essentially frozen and I am now testing the new server.  Richard Hanschu is handling the transfer and is an experienced sysadmin so I expect things to go smoothly and users should experience no problems - but I wanted to let you know what is happening in case something should go wrong. .  When the time for the actual user changeover comes, when the new DNS address is propagated over the web, that immediate changeover will be announced here and an additional "welcome" message will be posted on the new server to let you know when that change has reached your browser and you are at the new site (which except for that should look exactly like the old one).
Jan 1, 2005:  Have a Happy New (Soaring) Year ! 
Dec 13:  ETA changes:  Amazingly, I have finished (so far as I now know) all changes needed to adapt the processing program to the new ETA data files (the first time I can recall such changes taking less time than expected), so will be implementing the new version this week, just beating NCEP's Dec14 deadline.  I also need to make additional changes outside the processing program, which I will begin work on once the processing itself seems to be ok.  There may be minor problems and unforeseen bugs - please do not report such problems until a later news item indicates that I consider the switchover to be completed. 
Dec 8:  Looking for Logos:  I'm looking for new logos to add to the randomly selected graphics displayed in the upper right corner of the index and viewer webpages.  If your soaring operation has a logo and you'd like it displayed, send an image to and if it's suitable I'll add it to my list.
Nov 23:  I don't respond to ChoiceMail challenges:  I recently tried to respond to an email sent by someone who uses the ChoiceMail "challenge/response" email anti-spam software.  I hate spam and try to aid the war against it, so I normally do respond to the "challenge" email such systems send.  But the one issued by ChoiceMail goes too far in imposing burdens on the sender, in my opinion, since it requires three different inputs:  your name (despite the fact that information is already provided in the email), a reason (despite a Subject having already been provided), and deciphering/inputting a noisy number sequence.  I consider this unnecessary overkill which unduly abuses the sender, particularly when the email is primarily for the benefit of you and not for me.  All other challenge/response systems I know about are more reasonable, requiring only a single input.  I do not wish to jump through those hoops, or to encourage use of ChoiceMail, so I will not be responding to ChoiceMail challenges unless I need to get a message through for my own personal reasons - so those using ChoiceMail should not expect to receive an email reply from me unless they place my address is on their acceptance (white) list.  BTW that company accepts email only from its registered users, as I found by trying to send them a complaint message, my only means of "complaining" is by refusing to submit to their system! 
Nov 19:  ETA update:  I've been working on the new ETA implementation, looking at the most critical issues first, and have enough accomplished that I'm now confident that the change-over will be successful and so have re-instated the ETA model as a new subscription option.
Nov 4:  ETA turbulence ahead:  The calmer waters I spoke of in my last message have suddenly become turbulent, for I find that a new major BLIPMAP effort is now needed.  After a two week vacation, I returned home last week to find an email from NCEP stating that the ETA files I download would no longer be available after Dec 14.  For awhile it appeared that this would mean that ETA BLIPMAPs would have to die, but after several days of work I concluded that passible subsitute files exist and there is no obvious roadblock to their implementation.  So ETA BLIPMAPs should continue, but the needed program alterations are large and I do not expect to get them completed prior to Dec. 14.  After that date, ETA BLIPMAPs will disappear for an indefinite period.  For that reason I will not allow any new ETA BLIPMAP subscription sign-ups until I have some assurance that the new version will be workable.  Also, the new ETA forecasts will be somewhat degraded in quality due to limiations inherent in the substitute data.  Those interested in more details can read more details here.
Oct 3:  Time to step down:  Improvements made this summer have now produced a robust operational system which requires minimal minding.  As announced on July 4, the time has come to end my development efforts and put BLIPMAPs on "auto-pilot" status.  I do have a few additional things I plan to work on, such as conducting an annual survey and likely making changes based on that, but my active involvement will be minimal.  I will leave the DrJack Forum running for any who wish to use it as a communications medium but expect to myself post only under special circumstances - such as someone volunteering to augment/improve BLIPMAPs or if there appear to be problems with the registration or subscription systems  No new BLIPSPOTs will be created.  And in keeping with this change in status, I have now halved the subscription charges, which will be used to pay server and admin costs.  BLIPMAPs might still be improved in many ways, and I myself have a list of uncompleted "to do" items.  But for this next year significant improvements would occur only if someone else wants to themselves work on augmenting BLIPMAPs (though I would provide such assistance as I can, including server access if needed).  Whether or not anyone would step forward is a question, but I will be providing further information at a later date. 
    It is now time for me to rejuvenate and regain time for myself and for flying.  Frankly this past year has been a tough one for me in many ways, so I am looking forward to calmer waters ahead.  In the coming year I expect any weather forecasting development work I do to be local-region oriented - but the nation-wide BLIPMAP forecasts will continue to help you with your soaring flights.  The RUC and ETA models should improve in accuracy as time goes by, particularly through increased data assimilation, so the outlook is for BLIPMAP forecasting accuracy to also improve (on average) - though probably not as rapidly as we would like! 
    I very much want to thank those who have supported BLIPMAPs over the last years - your kind words, and positive criticisms, have been instrumental in helping create a "state of the art" BLIPMAPs and in keeping me going through the low points.  One of my plans for next year is to visit and experience other soaring locations, where I hope to meet some of you in person. 
Oct 2:  Fall update:  A report on summer operations and my future expectations for BLIPMAPs.

ARCHIVE of older news items which have now lost much relevance
 

REGISTRATION:
All BLIPMAPs are freely available to registered users.  Registration (free) is needed for direct (no-nag-screen) forecast access.  New users can Register here.  Currently registered users can Logon (get new cookie) here or view registration (cookie) status here.  More info is available at the Registration Information webpage. 
EMAIL POLICY: 
There are many advantages to having one person's knowledge be shared and available to others, so I expect most BLIPMAP issues to be handled through the DrJack Forum and ask those who have a question or problem or experience which could be of interest to others to post it there.  This allows others to comment on the matter if they have any personal experience and also allows any response I make to be read by others.  If you send me an email, I will respond personally only if it's nature is not appropriate for such posting - in other cases I will simply reply with a request to post to the forum. 
FEEDBACK REQUEST: 
I only look at the webpages and maps that I use personally or that I suspect might contain an error.  If you notice a consistent problem with either, please post a message on the DrJack Forum.